Community Center launches membership drive

Posted on February 17, 2011 by Sonoma Valley Sun

It’s an art gallery, education center, theatre space, event venue, town meeting hall and, at least every 56 years, where you display a World Series trophy.

The Sonoma Community Center, said its Executive Director Kathy Swett, “is the keeper of the flame, culturally.”

It’s time to stoke the fire.

The center this week launches its annual membership drive. The goal is to add 300 new members, pushing the total to over 1,000. Previous campaigns have helped double the membership over the past five years.

“The center was built to last and last it must,” said Councilmember Ken Brown, a longtime SCC employee.

The monetary goal is $44,000. To raise it, volunteers will hit the phones and the center will send out a mass mailing.

“It’s our biggest outreach,” Swett said. “It tells people what we’re up to, and reminds them why we’re here.”

The center looks good for a $2 million infusion of city bond money, but that will go towards seismic repairs and add heating and air conditioning. The membership drive, officially Feb. 15 through April 30, generates operating revenue.

Renovating and maintaining a 96-year-old building is an expensive proposition. But keeping the historic structure up and running is part of the SCC mission, Swett said, along with providing cultural programming and community events, such as the 4th of July bash and the annual City Party.

By hosting candidate debates, official receptions and even 2,500 Giants fans, the center is the city’s activity arm. Maintaining that partnership is not only critical, Swett said, but is really part of the center’s mandate

Another element of the center’s long-term strategy is to respond to the changing community and anticipate new demands.

A need for a dedicated venue for local theater groups, for example, lead to Andrews Hall becoming the home of the Sonoma Theatre Alliance last year. The four-company collaboration allowed for professional seating and lighting, as performances were held throughout the summer.

The Alliance will return this year with four more multiple-week productions.

Another emergent service is to provide lease partnership opportunities for non-profit organization. On the drawing board is to take that idea one step further, and provide shared office space and conference space to entrepreneurs.

Equipped now with a state-of-the-art kitchen, thanks to the Rotary Club, the center can begin adding a catering element to some of its rentals. The kitchen also inspired a new, monthly cooking series.

The SCC will soon roll out a box office service, selling tickets, and adding accounting and marketing functions, to its own events and others throughout the Valley.

The new initiatives may meet new community demands, but don’t quite make ends meet. That’s where membership dollars come in.

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